A study of the use of a social media learning tool in face-to-face college biology class
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ABSTRACT This study endeavors to elucidate how students are using the social media tool, Piazza, in their study of biology and which aspects do they find most valuable. Student perceptions of factors contributing to a community of practice through the use of Piazza were also explored. Students used Piazza primarily to communicate online with their classmates on both conceptual and administrative issues. Student use of Piazza varied according to the needs of the student with the majority of students accessing the site at least once a week. Students highly valued the ability to read posts left by other students to clarify questions. They especially appreciated the 24/7 online access of the site. Another dimension of accessibility that the students cited was that they often found explanations provided by peers easier to understand and therefore more accessible than from content experts. Students tended to post questions anonymously, however reported a strong sense of community although not a true sense of collaboration. Students took from the interactions what they individually needed even if it was a different way of looking at content, or finding out how a lab report needed to be formatted while still maintaining a sense of "being in this together". Social media allows for interactivity and content creation although most students in this study participated primarily as observers. Recommendations and suggestions for further study were provided.